Guest blog: Investing for your charity
It can be difficult for smaller charities to make investment decisions because of a lack of knowledge or resources and with this in mind the Northern Ireland Central Investment Fund for Charities was established in 1965 through the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 1964.
The Fund aims to provide trustees of charities with the opportunity to invest all or part of their funds with the benefit of expert supervision. It is managed by the Department for Communities through recognised fund managers, and its investment policy is guided by a locally based Advisory Committee appointed by the Department, which meets four times a year. The Fund gives these charities an opportunity to invest and to receive bi-annual dividend payments with minimal involvement or specialist investment skills required.
My career background in Investment Management and Stockbroking influenced my decision back in 2008 to apply to become a member of the Advisory Committee to the Fund. Despite having no previous experience of working on a public body, I believed the role would offer the opportunity to apply my investment management skills in a unique way. As a fund specifically designed to support the investment and income needs of local charities that might lack specialist in-house knowledge of financial markets, it also allowed me to contribute to a worthy cause by committing a relatively small amount of my time to the charities sector. I was appointed in February 2009 and attended my first Advisory Committee meeting in May of that year. In August 2014 I made the transition from Committee Member to Committee Chair.
As well as assisting the Department in any specific issues relating to the Fund such as compliance matters, our role on the Advisory Committee is largely to advise the Department on the day-to-day running of the Fund, including the annual review of investment objectives, asset allocation and income distribution policy, as well as the more regular monitoring of the Fund's performance against pre-determined benchmarks.
In addition, over the past few years the Advisory Committee has focussed on raising the general awareness of the Fund and the tremendous value it offers to local charities, through various initiatives such as the publication of a quarterly Fund Factsheet and an annual Shareholders' Forum. To meet face to face with the charities who have benefited from investing in the Fund has really brought home to us the value of the work we do as Advisory Committee members.
I have gained much satisfaction from witnessing the Fund steadily grow in size both in terms of its market value and in the number of charities investing in it. All charities in Northern Ireland are eligible to make use of the Fund.